By Katy Cable-The Weekly Runt
A 4 min. Read
No that's not a typo! You read the headline correctly. Now that I have your attention, I'm going to switch it up and give it a PAWsitive spin. In this blog I will be covering something every dog owner can do to add years to their pet’s life. I'm sure you'll agree, it’s inexpensive and very simple to incorporate. Even better, not only will doing these things give your pet a longer life, it will be a happier, healthier one as well. Another added bonus, you should also save a considerable amount of money in Veterinary bill$!
The number one, single most important thing you can do to add years to your pet's life is keep them from becoming overweight. The best way to do that...Unleash Your Dog's Inner-Athlete.
Prior to CoVid, I was so excited to watch the summer Olympic Games. I'm always awestruck and inspired by the fitness, endurance and strength of the athletes. The Olympics were also a huge motivator for me to become a "TRY-athlete" with Olive. I'm hoping I can encourage you to do the same with this game plan and some fun ideas. Another great thing, not only will your dog be happier and healthier, you are going to benefit as well.
You know your pet's energy levels and abilities at better than anyone. While some of you with extremely active dogs are already hitting the running and biking trails, a majority of us are super busy and know we could and SHOULD do more. If you're like me, sometimes the best I can muster up is a few quick walks down the street or throwing a ball a couple times. Unfortunately, that's not enough. Although it's a good start and anything is better than nothing, in order to stay lean, fit, well-conditioned, emotionally balanced, and fully mobile as they age, your dog needs some physical activity every day. Not only that, if they don't get opportunities to run, play and get regular aerobic exercise, even if they're not overweight, they can end up with arthritis and other debilitating conditions that affect the bones, joints, muscles and internal organs. In addition, many canine behavior problems are the direct result of a lack of physical activity. For optimum health and longevity, your dog should be getting a minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week.
Although canines are designed for movement and activity, what most people don't realize is that like their owners, dogs need some enticing to get moving. Even the largest, most exciting, backyard or the best ball isn't enough to motivate your pet to get the required exercise for staying in good physical condition.The only way to make sure your dog gets adequate exercise is to provide them with the companionship and incentive.
So, that's the goal we are striving for and taking a brisk hour-long power walk everyday will be a great start. Now, if your dog is out of shape, injured or ill you will want to modify activity. Also, be aware of environmental conditions that might make exercise unsafe such as poor air or water quality, and extreme temperatures.
If you aren't able to move at this pace, consider involving your dog in other types of cardiovascular exercise like a gentle swim or some Tug-A-War (I don't recommend this if your dog has neck, back, or aggression issues.) Another fun thing would be to hide different treats in boxes around your home and yard and involve them in scent-tracking games.
Once you're up to speed on walks, gradually increase the length of time of the walk and get your dog's heart rate up (and yours) by mastering some sand, gentle hills, inclines or hiking trails suitable for dogs. If you're not in an area to find those options, why not bring along a Frisbee or ball to throw and play "Go Fetch" during your time out.
For active breeds, high-energy or young dogs that are a challenge for you to keep up with, try getting a special bicycle leash and letting your dog run beside you while you ride. Again you can gradually add duration, hills and speed.
And while I myself have a young, healthy, active Pug (who thinks she's a greyhound when she's racing down the beach,) be careful with certain dogs and bicycles. I see many people out on skateboards or riding bicycles with Pugs and Bulldogs. And while it's always nice to see them out exercising and enjoying their pets, these breeds in particular have difficulty regulating their body temperature and breathing. And while the exercise is great, they MUST be able to stop and/or go at their own pace if they feel tired, out of breath or getting overheated.
These brachycephalic breeds (flat-smooshy faces) are typically not suited to be ideal running partners. -Unless the runner is like me and can't race to the end of my block without tripping or stopping to use my inhaler.
Swimning is another great exercise but not for every dog. Many dogs such as Dachshunds, Bulldogs, and Pugs are not designed to float or swim well. They can also be prone to horrible inner ear infections if they get their head's wet. I recommend ear plugs and a dog floatation vest attached to a long rope just to play it safe. Also many dogs are fearful of the water so it's best to introduce them in a manner that doesn't traumatize them. That being said, swimming can be a wonderful, fun, cardiovascular activity that doesn't put stress on the joints so don't rule it out. Plastic kiddie pools filled with some balls and water can be a fun way to get your dog acclimated to water.
My Olive is terrified of the water. It's unfortunate living just a few blocks from Rosie's Dog Beach. I still take her several times a week and keep exposing her to the gentle ocean but I go at her pace and never force her. Hopefully one day she will go charging into the ocean to retrieve those balls that get thrown. For today, she lets the water-loving dogs have them and abruptly stops at the shoreline.
With my Olive's traumatic past and fear issues, agility training was a great exercise option. This fun activity not only helped build her confidence but it also strengthened our bond. She became much more trusting, and she's in terrific, agile shape. She might even become a champion.
As you get out and begin your fun fitness plan don't forget to have plenty of fresh drinking water. I recommend a stainless water bottle with a rollerball spout for hygienic, spill-proof drinking. Or a portable dish for water. Nulo pet foods just introduced HYDRATE. Just add a squirt to water and provide your dog not only yummy flavors like roasted lamb, beef, chicken or pork but also give them amino acids, vitamins, and electrolytes. Grab them at Petsmart or your pet retailer.
Regardless of your dog’s athleticism (or lack thereof) always watch for signs of overexertion such as: limping, excessive panting, stopping in their tracks, or extreme fatigue.
Hopefully you and your fur baby will be "off and running" this fall having fun, and getting into great shape. -Pugs and kisses! 🐾💕